‘Kaala,’ first Indian film in Saudi cinemas, gimmicky at best

Indian fans take pictures as they celebrate next to a poster of Bollywood star Rajinikanth outside a cinema on the first day of release of his new Tamil-language film ‘Kaala,’ in Chennai on June 7, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2018
0

‘Kaala,’ first Indian film in Saudi cinemas, gimmicky at best

  • Rajinikanth remains a man who has to fall back on gimmicks
  • At 167 minutes, the film could have been liberally trimmed as the story has little novelty on offer

CHENNAI: A film with Tamil actor Rajinikanth is a like a carnival, but unlike a conventional one, there is more reverence here than just fun. The superstar, who is respectfully addressed as “thalaivar,” or chief, is not just an icon, but a phenomenon. Last week, Pa Ranjith-helmed, Rajinikanth-starrer “Kaala” became the first Indian film to open in newly re-launched Saudi cinemas — it sees Rajinikanth appear as an underworld don called Karikaalan.

Invariably dressed in a black dhoti and a black shirt, Kaala is not evil personified — as the color is often meant to denote – but goodness glorified. Playing godfather to his tribe of Tamils in Dharavi, the second largest slum in the world after one in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, he is provoked into a battle when a huge corporate, headed by a gangster-turned-minister Hari Dada (played by Nana Patekar), tries to demolish Dharavi and evict hundreds of its inhabitants.

In the war that ensues between Karikaalan and Hari, the star’s wife, Selvi (played by Eswari Rao) and eldest son, are killed, leaving a heartbroken husband and father, who does not choose a path of revenge, but merely carries on as a good Samaritan.

At 167 minutes, the film could have been liberally trimmed as the story has little novelty on offer. The movie follows a beaten track that is strewn with dead bodies and covered with blood and gore. A confrontation between the protagonist and Hari takes on various hues, but ends up presenting little that can be revelatory or surprising.

Rajinikanth remains a man who has to fall back on gimmicks (earlier it was flicking a cigarette in the air and catching it between his lips, and this time it is playing with his dark glasses) to keep his fans interested.

But, yes, if the film falls rather flat because its lead actor looks tired — he is 67-years-old — and is unable to think of different characters (unlike Bollywood’s Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor, who have given themselves a complete image makeover). Fine pieces of acting by Patekar infuse sparks of excellence into the narrative, however.

Unless Rajinikanth steps away from the gimmicks to take on more substantial roles, his movies may continue to be less than impressive.


Curious foreigners get rare chance to sample Emirati culture

Updated 19 May 2019
0

Curious foreigners get rare chance to sample Emirati culture

DUBAI: No question was off limits for curious tourists and foreign residents of Dubai wanting to learn more about Emirati culture and the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Emiratis make up less than 10% of those living in Dubai, the most populated emirate in the seven-emirate United Arab Emirates federation, making it hard for foreigners to meet them.
Dubai goes to great lengths to market itself as open to different cultures and faiths as the Middle East’s financial, trade and leisure center, and a government cultural center is inviting visitors to find out more about Emirati life.
“There are no offending questions,” said Emirati Rashid Al-Tamimi from the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding.
“How do you worship, what is the mosque, why do you wear white, why do women wear black ... is everybody rich in this country?“
Emirati volunteers gathered at a majlis — the traditional sitting room where the end-of-fast iftar meal is served at floor-level — were asked about dating and marriage, what they think of Dubai’s comparatively liberal dress codes for foreigners, and aspects of the Muslim faith.
“We learn from them, they learn from us. (Foreigners) have been here a long time and I feel they see themselves as Emiratis, and we are proud that they do so,” said Majida Al-Gharib a student volunteer.
Visitors broke the day’s fast with dates and water, before sampling Emirati cuisine, including biryani and machboos rice and meat dishes.
Seven-year-old Anthony from Poland, who goes to school in Dubai, said he came to find out more about the breaking of the fast meal because many of his friends at school do it.
2019 has been designated the Year of Tolerance in the United Arab Emirates and there is a minister of state for tolerance.